Beauty, Poetry, and Music

Much has been philosophized about beauty since the start of times. Socrates and -before him- Pythagoras related beauty to ethics. If something is morally good, then it is beautiful.

I particularly like the later description by Kant. He divides beauty in two type: Free and dependent. If something “beautiful” refers to deriving some other (dependent) pleasure from it (eg a building, a bottle of wine, cheesecake…), its beauty is “dependent.” But if you find something beautiful simply for what it is, promising no further pleasure than experiencing it at the moment; then it has “free” beauty. Perhaps, seeking the free beauty is a surer route to sustained happiness.

Compare a Monet (that you can never afford to buy) and a social-media video showing an act of human kindness (that you got nothing to do with). We enjoy both nevertheless. “Beautiful,” we say in either case. This is free beauty. (There is ample scientific evidence to prove that kindness and happiness are strongly correlated.) We often agonize as a struggle with our inner-selves simply because we were unkind to others.

So, Kant and Socrates did not contradict each other.

We also derive free beauty from poetry and music. Some people in this area are beautiful. Some are awe-inspiring. If you were awestruck by something and it made you happy, that thing is beautiful. Just take Kant for his words!

I find some poets, musicians, and singers to be awe-inspiring and, hence, beautiful. Elvis Presley singing “In the ghetto”, Suresh Wadkar singing “Sanjh dhale”, Khayyam composing “Ae did e nadaan,” or Anand Bakshi writing “lambi judayee”: All are beautiful humans. The old Baba Nagarjun with his unkempt beard is just as beautiful when he writes “badal ko ghirte dekha hai. “

Time moves on. And as Heraclitus once rightly said: nothing stays the same: Time passes and with that the context changes. So, we cannot see something beautiful the same way as we did in the past. Yet, we can salvage some of our past reactions to something beautiful.

Listening to some melodious numbers is one such trick that makes us happy. And what makes us happy is beautiful.

Call me outdated, but I spent this evening listening to Khayyam Sahab’s songs (yet again). His beauty has no match. His deep musical compositions are a portal to free beauty. You pine, you extract joy, feel good about what you got and just make your peace with what you could never achieve. It’s all beautiful.

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